In one of the coolest collaborations of the year so far, MSI and EK Water Blocks have come together to create a new Z490 motherboard, the MSI MPG Z490 Carbon EK X. It is armed with an EKWB CPU block with integrated RGB LEDs which also provides cooling to the power delivery, it includes a 12+1 VRM design, with two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, Realtek 2.5 G Ethernet, and an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6.

One of the most important aspects to consider when buying Intel's Comet Lake 10th generation processors is cooling. The Core i9-10900K is a hot CPU, even at stock, and with the performance gained via Intel's Thermal Velocity Boost, performance cooling is more important than it ever has. There are only a handful of Z490 models that include water blocks, and they aren't cheap. The ASRock Z490 Aqua is $1100, while the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce is $1299. This model is expected to retail for $400.

Enter the MSI MPG Z490 Carbon EK X, which looks to offer the benefits of custom water cooling on Intel's hot running 10th generation desktop processors, but with a much more wallet-friendly cost. Its most significant selling point is the EKWB custom monoblock which cools both the CPU and the 12+1 phase power delivery. The integrated RGB LEDs in the monoblock can be controlled with MSI's Mystic Light software. There are three full-length slots which can operate at x16/x0/x+4 or x8/x8/x+4, with two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots too.

The four memory slots can support up to DDR4-4800 with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB, while two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 and six SATA ports make up the board's storage capability. The design is based on its natural carbon inspired theme with black carbon patterning across the rear panel and sections of the monoblock, as well as the PCIe armor and chipset heatsink.

There is also a range of connectors including a USB 3.2 G2 20 Gbps Type-C, four USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel. For users looking to use Intel's UHD integrated graphics, MSI has included a DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI pair of video outputs, while a PS/2 combo caters to users with legacy peripherals. For networking the Z490 Carbon EK X is using a Realtek RTL8125B 2.5 G Ethernet controller, while an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 adds support for BT 5.1 devices. In regards to internal connectors, MSI includes a single USB 3.2 G2 Type-C header, one USB 3.2 G1 Type-A header which supports two ports, and two USB 2.0 headers which support up to four ports. 

The MSI MPG Z490 Carbon EK X has an MSRP of $400, which is very reasonable for all of the board's features, including the custom EKWB monoblock which cools the processor and power delivery components. So far this is the third Z490 model to include a monoblock by default and costs a third of what GIGABYTE are charging for its flagship Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce model. It's not as high-end, but the Z490 Carbon EK X offers a more affordable entry point into the custom water cooling market with the Carbon EK X, and it looks good too.

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Source: MSI

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  • alufan - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    You really have to hand it to Intel despite having an inferior product they are throwing money at suppliers and marketing budget to keep their product up front and centre AMD would do well to take note and do some of the same
  • lmcd - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    I'd recommend a solid bonk of your head against an arbitrary choice of ATX case. Do you really think a product of this complexity was planned and designed while the details and performance characteristics of Zen 2 were known?

    If you actually think this, please, bonk again.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Zen 2's expected performance characteristics were already known about 18 months ago. By then it was also clear that Intel would not be responding with anything comparable.

    Please do tell us more about how a custom waterblock and blinkenlights constitute a product of such complexity that it required more than 18 months to develop, though. I'm all ears - practically made of the damned things.
  • alufan - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    complexity? what a water block? dude these are 2 a penny make the first out of a known material say 2-4 Days tops in a workshop test then mass produce its not that difficult, what is difficult is convincing a producer that its financially going to be viable and they wont lose money, its a Halo product for the masses and no I wont bonk my head AMD is missing a trick here and should take a long hard look at the lack of marketing, ok they dont need to but still it would be good to get more online exposure for the platform
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    I guess someone will buy one of these. Whatever.
  • Hxx - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    It will sell pretty well considering that a high end board is almost just as much but without the monoblock.
  • Hxx - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    I was wondering when we will get a mid range board with a built n waterblock. Not many are willing to spend 1K to get that feature set. For those looking to watercool a gaming rig this would be a great choice especially since a monoblock alone from EK is around 200.

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